Missionary Pulse: Being The New Kid

As a parent, it’s painful to see your children struggle.

“While it’s a tough pill to swallow, it is a valuable life experience for the kids to know how it feels to be on the wrong side of discrimination and bullying,” says Sue, EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Costa Rica, referring to the challenges her three young children have faced in school.

“Hopefully, it will instill in them a compassion for others who are of a different race, culture, or economic or social status. It’s not the kind of lesson you hope your kids experience; but, at the same time, we are grateful that God has given them the perseverance to power through their struggles.”

When Sue and her husband, Dan, decided to leave behind friends, family and a comfortable income in Missouri to move their family to Costa Rica in December 2009, they did not make the decision lightly. Nor did they flippantly decide to send their children — Emma, Caleb, and Isaac — to bilingual schools this past February.

“It was a difficult decision to pull the kids out of Sojourn Academy, the missionary kids’ school where they studied during our first year in Costa Rica,” Sue says.  “However, we wanted the kids to have a better opportunity to engage in the Costa Rican culture, learn Spanish more fluently, and meet more kids who actually call Costa Rica home. So many of the students at Sojourn Academy are only here for a few months to, at most, one year, and we wanted our children to feel they had more stable, long-term classmates and friends.”

The transition has been hardest on 9-year-old Emma. As the oldest, she has the clearest memories of life and school in the States.

“Emma has shed many tears during the last school year,” says Sue. “Tears over new challenges, friends she misses both from Missouri and Sojourn Academy, and the desire to return to life back in the States.  But after many months of ups and downs, she finally has found a place in her new school and has made some solid friendships. Not to mention, she is excelling both socially and academically.”

“Emma has found her groove in after school activities, including art and gymnastics clubs,” Dan adds. “She seems to be naturally drawn to other international students, who understand her experiences as the new kid from a different country.”

Caleb, 6, has embraced the favorite Costa Rican pastime, soccer. Isaac, 4, has settled into the only home he really remembers — after all, he arrived in Costa Rica as a 2-year-old.

At the end of November, the three completed their first full school year at their new schools.

“We’re happy to put this first roller coaster year behind us,” Sue admits. The children will start next school year in February with improved Spanish, established friendships and a deeper understanding of their new culture.

“Thankfully, the difficulties are not something Emma, Caleb and Isaac have allowed to define their overall school experience.”

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Missionary Pulse is a column dedicated to reflections directly from the ReachGlobal Latin America missionaries on the field. See archives.

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Contact us to find out how you can serve in Costa Rica — individually or with a team — or consider opportunities to teach missionary kids.

  • For Emma, Caleb, Isaac and all the missionary kids who face new challenges as new students in a different culture.
  • That God would use the difficult times to strengthen families and draw them closer to Him.

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